Russian Orthodox Church, 
Orthodox Church America, American Orthodox, Orthodox U.S.A.

From Metropolitan DENIS
to Metropolitan Symeon and the ROCIA


The history of the Church has witnessed the emergence of remarkable personalities at regular intervals. Patriarch TIKHON was one such individual. Earlier, the Church has celebrated such luminaries as Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory of Nyssa and even Origen and Clement of Alexandria. Some of these men are universally loved. Others are loved by some and hated by others. What cannot be denied is that such men are often controversial. What is remarkable is that the end of the twentieth century our Lord gave the Church two such men: Metropolitan DENIS and Metropolitan SYMEON.

Metropolitan DENIS

(This section to be completed by Bishop PAUL (Dolan)

Metropolitan SYMEON

Metropolitan SYMEON (Ioannovskij) was born Steven Mark Holdridge in Roswell , New Mexico , on 6 October 1953. He attended Phillips University . He undergraduate studies were in Religion, Religious Education and Church Music.

Starting his sophomore year, he was catechized in the Greek Orthodox faithChurch of the Megolohari, Tinos, Greece (taking the Christian name, Stephanos), by Archimandrite Paul, an hieromonk from the island of Tinos, Greece, an exchange professor at Phillips. He received orders, including the Sacred Presbytery, from Patriarch +MARKOS's Auxiliary Bishop +DAVID in 1975 on October 8th.

After Christmas of 1976, Stephanos returned to his home town of Roswell, New Mexico to assist with the care of his terminally ill father. There, he established an English speaking mission dedicated to the Holy Apostles, he also established the Pan-American Institute of Apostolic Christianity, to train men for the service of the Church. The course of study was designed so that this could be accomplished primarily with distance learning, with quarterly and yearly seminars. This project proved to be fortuitous, for it established a clear communication channel with soon-to-be Archbishop DENIS Garrison, primate of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church. He attended the June Synod meeting of that Church, as an observer and guest in 1987.

In 1983, having been recommended by Archimandrite Paul of Tinos, Greece, Priest Stephen Holdridge of Roswell, NM was consecrated by Patriarch +MARKOS, Patriarch +DIODOROS, and Archbishop +N
ATALINO. All of the negotiations and services were carried out in Modern Greek, a language that Priest Stephanos+ only understood rudimentarily and were sometimes translated for him.

Priest Stephanos understood that he was to be the Exarch in the Western Hemisphere for the exiliar Patriarchate of Alexandria, and eventually, become the exiliar Patriarch.

A few words would be appropriate at this point to describe the exiliar Patriarchate of Alexandria. Priest Stephanos was told (and has found record of in books concerning both the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria and the Council of Chalcedon) that after the Council, the Church of Alexandria split into three factions, those loyal to Constantinople (without whose blessing, today, a Patriarch of Alexandria, although supposed to be Auto-cepahic, cannot be enthroned), those rejecting the Council of Chalcedon on theological terms (which became the Coptic Church) and the exiliar Patriarchate, under MARKOS II, which rejected the oversight of the Greek Church, and so was called (non-Melchite, not following the king) and whose Sobor Church, Monastery and Seminary were located in the populous Heptastadium neighborhood of Alexandria.

Stavronikita Monastery where Metr SYMEON studied

Again according to what Stephen had been told, after many persecutions by the Moslems, the Church relocated to the island of Tinos, in Greece, in the twelfth century. Tinos from the twelfth century until the 1980’s was the home to three Christian groups, the Greek Orthodox, the non-Melchite Alexandrians, and the Roman Catholics (who had settled there after the crusades). This is the reason for the 400 Churches and monasteries one island.

The purpose for Stephen’s consecration was reportedly two-fold. First, MARKOS, the current Patriarch, was under increasing pressure, because of the growth of the old calendrist movement, of which he was incorrectly seen as a part, to come under the Greek Orthodox Church and to resign his episcopacy and retire to a monastery on the Mt. Athos . While he was ready to capitulate, he wanted to choose a successor and have him reside safely in the ‘New World’, where there was freedom of religion. Second, there were many non-Melchite faithful among the Greek immigrants in the U.S. and he deemed it appropriate to provide them with clergy and a bishop.

So it was, according to what priest Stephen was told by the people involved in his ordination and consecration, that Archimandrite Paul had recommended Stephen to become exarch in America and eventual successor to Patriarch MARKOS. (Because of this, priest and then Bishop STEPHANOS used the Liturgy of Saint Mark until his enthronement as Archbishop of Denver in the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America).

Participants in Bishop STEPHANOS' ordination and consecration became increasingly inaccessible and what little documentation had once existed [heretofore stored on Mount Athos, at the Skete of St. Andrew (a dependency of the monastery of Vatopedi) where the hierarch that Bishop STEPHANOS knew as Patriarch MARKOS was living as a Monk] became inaccessible. For whatever reason, written documentation of this ordination to Bishop was never forthcoming, therefore Metropolitan SYMEON sought conditional re-ordination by and membership in the Synod of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church , under Metropolitan DENIS. At that juncture, Bishop STEPHANOS was offered Episcopal protection by Archbishop DENIS, so that written documentation would be available to his clergy (so as to prove the validity of their orders and sacraments).

(Metropolitan S
YMEON did not seek this re-ordination because he had any doubts about the legitimacy of his initial sacraments and the charisms imparted thereby. Rather, Metropolitan SYMEON was concerned about the peace of mind of the clergy that he had ordained, or would ordain in the future, and the Orthodox Christians that would receive sacraments from these priests, as well as those who received sacraments from Metropolitan SYMEON).

This consecration has been denied by the US representative of +N
ATALINO, although +NATALINO himself never directly denied being involved. Priest Stephanos later accurately identified +NATALINO and +DIODOROS from separate photo 'line-ups' administered by impartial authorities (Metropolitan DENIS (Garrison) having administered a photo 'line-up' for Metropolitan STEPHANOS to identify +DIODOROS
at the time that the controversy began). In later years, Metropolitan SYMEON has come to believe that the bishops involved were who they claimed to be, however, their purpose was never given. It is surmised that they were attempting to stabilize Old Calendarist, conservative Orthodoxy in the U.S.A. +DIODOROS spent much time and effort trying to assist Old Calendrists.

These events culminated at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Bishops of the Church, the weekend of June 2, 3, 4 & 5th, 1988. Metropolitan STEPHANOS (now re-named Metropolitan SERAPHIM) was conditionally consecrationed by Archbishop PAUL (Dolan) (with the other bishops of the synod assisting) and returned from that synod not only with documentation, but having been enthroned as the first ever Orthodox Archbishop of Denver, Colorado (and the only Russian Archbishop to ever have an actual see in the city). The synod also made him Exarch of the Alexandrian church (to assist the other clergy who were out of contact with Patriarch MARKOS) and Eparch of Central America. At the same synod, Metropolitan STEPHANOS took the vows of the small schema, being given the name: Seraphim (to honor Seraphim of Sarov) by Archbishop DENIS, the primate of the Church.

The following year: the bishops of the same synod elected Metropolitan SERAPHIM Primate X of the HEOCACNA (which had originally been chartered in 1927 by the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in America at the prompting of Patriarch Saint Tikhon of Moscow). He was enthroned as Patriarch of North America and Primate X of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America at a special synod in 1989 at Columbia, South Carolina, attended by all of the bishops and all of the other clergy of the Church.

In 1988, Bishop SERAPHIM and Proto-Deacon James founded a small Russian skete (monastery) in Denver. Receiving considerable resistance among the ethnic Catholic population they were endeavoring to serve, they moved to Carpenter Wyoming to found the Monastery of St Joseph the Betrothed. Not, however, before both were assaulted. Deacon James (Metropolitan SYMEON's monastic kellinic) finally reposed on 14 December 1994, from the effects of these early attacks.

The monastery in Carpenter was moved in 1992 to Shoshoni Wyoming. Then, in 1993, they again moved to escape persecution, this time a return to central Denver, Colorado. They felt directed to dedicate the Denver skete to Saint John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Wonderworker, in whose glorification Metropolitan SERAPHIM had participated in June of 1994.

In 1994, Metropolitan SERAPHIM had resigned the primacy of the church, in favor of Metropolitan VLADIMIR (one of the bishops that had participated in his consecration and enthronement) and dear and loyal friend), to live a life of reclusion at the Ukrainian monastery in Houston, Texas. In 1995, following the repose of Deacon James, Metropolitan VLADIMIR, the Primate of the HEOCACNA, relocated to Denver, Colorado to assist with the foundation of the Monastery of Saint John the Wonderworker and assist in the care of his friend and mentor, Metropolitan SERAPHIM. It was at this time that Metropolitan SERAPHIM met another life-long friend, rasofor monk Nestor, now of the Skete of Saint Mary Magdalene in Missouri.

Throughout the 1990's, as his health improved, Metropolitan SYMEON became increasingly active in the care of persons affected by the HIV epidemic. He served as chaplain of an AIDS hospice, as chaplain for HIV patients at Denver General Hospital and on the Mayor Welington Webb’s committee on HIV/AIDS services (both as a member and on the executive committee). He chaired the committee that wrote the three-year plan for HIV services for the City and County of Denver.

In 1996, due to his poor health, caused by the earlier incidents, he was made a Great Schema (megaloschemos) monk by Metropolitan VLADIMIR, being given, as is traditional, another name, this time honoring St. Symeon, the God-receiver. Later in 1996, following the resignation of Metropolitan Vladimir from both the monastery and the Church, Metropolitan Schema-Archbishop SYMEON, as the last bishop of the Church, resumed primatial authority and dignity, upon the unanimous request of the clergy and parishes. In 1998, he was joined in his monastic labors and hierarchical duties by Bishop MACARIUS (titular see of Auraria). Together, they re-chartered the Church as the Russian Orthodox Church in America, to more correctly reflect her history and significance.

In the late 1990?s and early in this century, Metropolitan SYMEON worked with Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in western Denver. Holy Trinity’s rector was Bishop IOAN, both one of the Metropolitan’s long-term friends and one of the three men that has had the Metropolitan assist in their consecration to the sacred episcopacy. In 2002, Metropolitan SYMEON founded the Cathedral parish of Mary Joy of the Sorrowing in Aurora, Colorado.

In 2005, Abp. MACARIUS left the church, leaving Metropolitan SYMEON once more without synodal. To correct this deficiency, Metr. SYMEON invited Bishop IOAN, whom he had assisted in consecrating to join him in the synodia. The synodia has since sought and seated additional hierarchs.

In October 2006, Metropolitan SYMEON moved his primary residence from Denver, Colorado to Roswell, New Mexico, U.S.A. where he has established the Monastic Skete of Saint John the Wonderworker and the parish of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia. Summer of 2008 will mark the commencement of classes at the Roswell campus of the Saint Innocent of Alaska Orthodox Theological Seminary.

On June 14th, 2008, the Feast of the Holy Prophet Elisha, Metropolitan SYMEON received the Church of the Holy Faith of the Christian East (the Orthodox Church of Columbia) into the Russian Orthodox Church in America. The following day, its hierarch JAIRO Gonzales y Montoya was raised to the Archepiscopal Dignity as Archbishop for the Western Rite in Central and South America.

(note to reader: In the preceeding document, the convention of calling Orthodox hierarchs (bishops) by their first names has been followed, except in the case of Archbishop Natalino (who asked me to call him by his last name). It is also pious custom to Capitalize the names of Hierarchs. Finally, those bishops with a cross before their names are known to have reposed in Christ at the time this was written.)

Designed and Maintained by:

Stavropaegiac - Archierarchal

Russian Orthodox Monastery
of Saint John the Wonder Worker

Roswell, New Mexico U.S.A.
Metropolitan Symeon (Ioannovskij), Our Archbishop

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